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Thursday, 13 December, 2018

O'Brien's Classic stranglehold broken on day of travails

Rhododendron chases Enable home in the Oaks
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A long, frustrating day for the Aidan O'Brien team did not end with another Classic success, but the trainer was keen to focus on the positives as Rhododendron and Alluringly filled the frame.

There were no problems in-running for odds-on favourite Rhododendron, who was unable to live with winner Enable in the closing stages, going down by five lengths.

Instead, she – and the rest of O'Brien's team – endured severe travel difficulties when there was a problem fueling the aircraft due to bring them over from Ireland.

Rather than arriving at Epsom in good time, the O'Brien team touched down at Farnborough airport hours later than anticipated and finally arrived on course just before 2pm, only slightly over an hour before Highland Reel's tenacious Coronation Cup win. 

O'Brien refused to use the delays as an excuse, feeling instead the trip had stretched Rhododendron's stamina too far.

"Ryan [Moore] felt the last furlong was a long furlong on our filly," he said. "She's run very well and everything went lovely. Whether the trip was far enough for her, or whether she just had a busy day, there was a lot of other stuff but she ran very well.

"I'd say she'd be very happy going back down in trip."

A further six lengths behind Rhododendron was stablemate Alluringly, who makes the form look even more solid, having finished runner-up to Enable in the Cheshire Oaks.

The contours of Epsom proved tricky for Pretty Polly winner Horseplay, who made late headway to be fourth for Andrew Balding and Oisin Murphy.

A step up in trip is an option for the filly, as Balding said: "She wasn't quite streetwise enough but when she got organised she stayed on well and I think she'll stay further."

The rain did not materialise in time for Prix Saint-Alary winner Sobetsu, who was challenging Rhododendron in the straight before emptying. She finished eighth of the nine runners, while Natavia was unable to build on her Listed win at Newbury, coming home last.

Ryan [Moore] just felt the last furlong was a long furlong on our filly

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